Are your Jewish colleagues feeling safe?

In this blog, enei’s Head of Account Management and Business Development Jack Cluer challenges biases, advocates for awareness, and urges everyone to check in with Jewish colleagues for support.

Image shows an old prayer book with an engraved star of David on the cover.

I am sure I represent most of us when I say I have found the events coming out of the Middle East extremely troubling over the past six weeks. The horrific atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October saw 1,400 people murdered and the largest number of Jews killed since the Holocaust.

The subsequent conflict has continued to be devastating with the death toll in Gaza rising by the thousands and rockets continuing to be fired into Israel. It is important to remember that behind every ‘number’ is a human being. This is a life lost, a family broken, and the damage to those affected is irreparable.

I believe most of us are pro-peace and the main debates and disagreements come as to how that can be achieved.

I am far from qualified to answer that one and will leave that to those with far more knowledge than myself. I must also add that I am not Jewish, nor Muslim, not Israeli, nor Palestinian. I am not qualified to speak on anyone’s behalf and nor would I attempt to.

In a month where the Metropolitan Police have reported a 1350% rise in antisemitic hate crimes in London, I feel compelled to talk about what I have witnessed the past few weeks and more importantly to ask us all to consider what we can do to support our Jewish neighbours, friends, and colleagues.

Over the past few weeks, I have personally witnessed antisemitic signage outside a busy London station as commuters idle on past.

I have heard accounts from Jewish parents who do not feel safe sending their children to school dressed in uniform due to fear of being targeted.

On social media, I have seen images of synagogues and Jewish-run businesses vandalised and people tearing down posters raising awareness of young Israeli hostages. I have overheard conversations in pubs and on trains, containing anti-Jewish tropes and conspiracies. I am aware that this hatred has extended to social media, and in particular TikTok, and I worry about the impact this has on the younger generation.

Most troubling, I have seen people with large audiences raise the question of if the events of the 7 October really happened. This is Holocaust denialism in real time.

I recently met a Jewish colleague at a member organisation of ours who said something that has since stuck with me. He said that non-Jewish people speak about the Holocaust as if it is some act of ancient history and something we learn about in textbooks. He went on to say that the Holocaust is not some distant act of history, that we learn about in school. It is the reason why he does not have an extended family tree. It is the reason his and many other’s parents fled Europe. For many Jewish families, the Holocaust is the reason many people have not met their grandparents and that today in 2023, there are significantly fewer Jews in Europe than pre-1940.

The public and is often too quick to compare modern-day wars, conflicts, and aggressions to the Holocaust and that needs to stop.

Over six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and today only 271,327 Jews live here in England and Wales according to the latest census. This makes up less than 0.5% of the population—a statistic that often surprises people.

The other thing that I continue to witness is members of the Jewish community being asked about their views on Israel or asked to defend the actions of the Israeli government.

I have never seen my Catholic friends be asked to justify the actions of the Pope, or my Muslim friends be asked their views on the activities in the Gulf. I, as a white (non-religious) Briton, have never been asked to justify British foreign policy decisions.

Why would a British Jew be required to have an opinion or be answerable to the actions of Israel? I do not have the answer to that one.

I have also seen people in my network who have never commented on a single geopolitical matter criticise Israel. Why would people who would not normally hold or voice an opinion on conflicts abroad do so strongly when the conflict involves the world’s only Jewish state? Again, I do not have the answer. I ask myself, is this coincidental, deliberate, or is it a product of inherent bias – conscious or unconscious?

I see antisemitism as a form of racism and believe it should be treated as such. The victims of antisemitism vary from religiously conservative to atheists. The Nuremberg Race Laws did not target those practising Judaism but those with Jewish grandparents. This therefore destroys the notion that this type of discrimination is about beliefs.

Would we act differently if the recent rise in discrimination was against another minority group? Again, I do not have the answer.

My ask to employers is that antisemitism needs to be treated with the same seriousness that we approach other forms of anti-racism.

I would urge us all to learn more about the history of antisemitism and more importantly to check in with our Jewish peers.

Many Jews today do not feel safe and require our support.

This blog post was written by Jack Cluer, enei Head of Account Management and Business Development. It was originally posted on 18 December 2023. 

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